PEA RIDGE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A 78-year-old Arkansas man was arrested on a felony charge Monday after allegedly placing multiple dead animals on a man’s grave.
Joseph A. Stroud, of Bentonville, is accused of doing more than $2,500 in damage to a former neighbor’s headstone by staining it with the blood of dead animals.
According to a probable cause report, Shannon Nobles contacted police in late July after she and her family began finding dead animals on the grave of her grandfather, Fred Allen McKinney, two months prior.
“At first, they thought it was just a coincidence and thought maybe the animals were consuming the fake floral and dying. When they began finding more dead animals, they realized it wasn’t just a coincidence, someone was placing the dead animals there purposefully,” the report states.
Nobles said they have removed approximately 16 dead animals from the grave since the incidents began. One animal, which had been draped over the monument to their grandfather, stained the headstone brown.
With the cemetery’s permission, the family set up game cameras and captured several images of a man “walking up to the headstone with a dead animal in hand, place the dead animal on the headstone, and walk back to his vehicle.”
The vehicle identified in the video was a “gray, newer model” Dodge Journey.
Pea Ridge police said the person in the images appeared to be an elderly white man wearing denim overalls and blue, slip-on shoes with a white sole. He also appeared to be attempting to disguise himself by wearing a teal and white woman’s windbreaker jacket, sunglasses and a woman’s wig.
As Nobles drove by the cemetery one day, she noticed a grey Dodge Journey leaving the graveyard and decided to follow it until the vehicle pulled in to a Walmart Neighborhood Market parking lot.
When the driver got out, she immediately recognized him as 78-year-old Stroud, a former acquaintance of her grandparents.
“Joseph Stroud and Fred McKinney had farms next to each other with a shared boundary for several years,” according to the report.
Nobles told police that her grandfather and Stroud “never got along with each other and there was even a lawsuit between them she thought Joseph [Stroud] had lost.”
She said Stroud’s wife was buried not far from her grandfather in the same line of headstones.
According to the report, one day while Nobles was running, she witnessed Stroud leaving the cemetery in his Dodge Journey. Nobles immediately went over to check her grandfather’s grave and discovered a dead possum lying on top of it, along with eight live babies inside a flower vase attached to the headstone.
Nobles called police to report the incident, and officers reviewed surveillance footage from Pea Ridge Middle School, which has a camera pointed toward the cemetery.
After cross-referencing surveillance footage, police determined the person placing the dead animals on the grave was wearing several of the same items of clothing as Stroud.
Police then went to Stroud’s home and spotted a grey 2018 Dodge Journey while walking up to the house, inside the Journey was a bath towel spread out with red stains “which appeared to be blood.”
Officers told Stroud they were investigating a case in which he was named and asked if he could come to the police department for questioning.
“I have found through experience that most people would want to know and asked what this was about, which he did not. Joseph said ‘OK, I can head that way right now,'” the Pea Ridge officer’s report states.
Stroud denied any involvement.
“No I’m not going to tell you it was me because it wasn’t,” he allegedly told police.
The family was asked for an estimate for damages so police could determine the appropriate charges. After the family consulted with a local funeral home director, they determined that it “would not be effective” to clean the headstone since the bloodstain had gone in beyond the surface.
A total headstone replacement, estimated at $2,529.45, was recommended.
Stroud was arrested and booked into the Benton County Jail on a Class B felony. He has since been released.